Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 44th day of summer urges the birds to flock, Thursday, August 2nd, 2012. On day of the Blue Martin, we turn to festivals to help celebrate the 50 days of summer that await.

Is that a beetle or a tick to the left of my keyboard? If I give it my finger, and it begins to suck blood, I will be sure it is a tick. I really wish I had a hungry American Robin here to gobble it up. If I feed a bird, it's better than smashing the unfortunate intruder. Johnny Appleseed would pick it up in a handkerchief and pack it out of the office. I guess that's what my collection of empty pill bottles is good for today. I'll pack out the beetle or tick in that old bottle of Amlodipine Besylate from January 2012. I have caught the insect in my pill bottle and I feel like a good naturalist. I had a chance to get a good look at the bug upside down in the pill cap, and it doesn't look like a flesh biter.
There's a woodlot and field that reaches from Estes Drive to Vale Drive, south of Sherman and north of Bonneville Road. It has two or three stands of mature forest and a meadow used as a storage yard for old boats and recreational vehicles. Three days ago, I noticed a stag with a rack of eight prongs sneaking around with two deer without antlers, and I assume these were does. So much for having to face the rigors of the rut. I guess life is easier for a stag in an urban forest. The sandy two track runs south of the yard and woodlots, and I spotted three Killdeer in that meadow of short grass. One Killdeer heard the call and flew over to stand close to the pair of Killdeer. Then the three ran on their stalky legs, clearing the railroad rails like hurdle jumpers, except they didn't jump nor change their stride. It's as if their legs passed right through the steel. I was pretty amazed. I searched the part of the field vacated by the loner Killdeer looking for eggs and found none. I wasn't planning on drawing too near a nest. I just wanted a glimpse. I also wanted to see if the Killdeer would begin a distraction show, the broken winged dance.
I was searching the grass near the threesome when I drew near to a tall chain link fence. Years ago, surely a factory or operation had occupied the land. Most of the concrete had been torn up, and black cherry and cedars had started to grow, trees about ten years old, to my eye. A tall pine post, taller than a telephone post, had a defunct kleig lamp on top, and I heard a scree from this post. I spotted a Red Tail Hawk commanding that once lighted tower. I walked closer to the fence one step. The hawk screed again. I walked one more step closer. The Red Tail took flight on a level path for the woods due east of the tower. That forest stands east of Glenside Boulevard and borders the Textron Foundry, still fuming at the smokestack. I noticed five minutes later, a flock of small birds harrying the Red Tail as the raptor flew for cover in the leaves of a maple. So by looking for Killdeer eggs, as innocent as that can be, I was also causing birds of the forest to fight a displaced raptor.
I am pretty sure I have seen purple martins before this year and during this summer. I haven't identified a purple martin yet this season, although I think I saw a martin on a wooden rail along a path to Lake Harbor Park beach last Sunday. I read an exciting article about the Gone To the Birds Festival in Richmond Virginia. I was offered a job in Richmond January 0f 2008, but instead I showed up for work in Muskegon, Michigan, taking a better offer. I once sat on an Amtrak train to Washington for ten minutes at the Richmond station, admiring all the brick buildings transformed into mixed use retail and entertainment venues. I should have gotten off and smoked a cigarette on the platform, a very Virginian act. Some of the buildings had old advertising paintings on their walls, extolling the virtues of cigars. A large flock of over fourteen thousand purple martins have made their temporary home in the branches and leaves of 15 Bradford pear trees standing in Shockoe Bottom. The Bottom serves the men and women of Richmond as an entertainment district, and the birds have been welcomed with open arms and raised glasses, the Purple Martini a favorite.
A retired teacher named Adolph White cleans up after the birds, who leave a bit of bird lime on the sidewalk, to say the least. He also serves as a tour guide and host of the flock. I hope everyone remembers to tip him after the tour. He's rendering a great service to mankind and to all birds that fly. We are recovering our flocks. The Purple Martin almost disappeared in 1980, run out of nesting cavities by European Starlings. People started putting out plastic hollow gourds for them to make nests inside. The Purple Martin might be one of a short list of birds brought back by the kindness of birders. The gourds can be invaded by house sparrows or starlings. I just wonder who teaches people to evict sparrows or starlings? Must be the same people who sell purple martin songs on tape to lure a new couple to a fresh plastic gourd. Sad, the purple martin couples only hatch one brood a year, around three to six eggs. That yields only one to four extra martins when you consider the couple has to replace themselves.
Why did we wipe out our flocks of the eighteenth century? The Sandhill Cranes return to Pulaski County, Indiana, and the state builds observation decks. The Canadian Geese build back their numbers in Fennville, and the locals start a Goose Festival. Hopefully, tourism and martinis will be able to pay for increased habitat in the years to come.
Loved this story:
Purple Martin Headquarters
More to learn awaits friends of the martin.
Photography Credits:
Purple Martin in Redmond, Washington, USA. Taken at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington, USA.
24 May 2008
Author JJ Cadiz, Cajay
Purple Martins eggs and small chicks in a nestbox in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. May 18, 2010 nest check in colony : 32 eggs; 2 young; 7 nests.
Date 18 May 2010
Oakley Originals

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